I don't know how well it'll play to those unfamiliar with the original 2000AD comic, but Dredd is a great movie. Not perfect, but one that dares to do its own ultra-violent thing and doesn't aim to be for everyone. I could say more, but Antonia Quirke's review for the Financial Times hits the nail on the head:
[Dredd is] a film made with love for the simple, cool and assured cult genre classics such as Rollerball, Robocop and Escape from New York. If people go to an action film these days expecting pace and continuous pleasure from computer drawings, what they’ve been getting is plotting that’s completely tortuous. Condense for me, do, what happened in The Dark Knight Rises. Or in the recent Bourne reboot, which had to resort to a Mission: Impossible-style finale in order to shake off – like so many fleas – its story’s sinuous insanity. Dredd acts like an answer to this kind of pretentious plotting.
… Although the three leads are unimprovable (especially the fatalistic Headey, with her Jacobeanishly green teeth), the great pivotal decision was to have Dredd himself played by a normal human being. He may be based on a character from a comic strip, but if you allow Dredd to be more Dirty Harry than Terminator then everything else slots into place. Make him a muscle-bound, cartoonish Vin Diesel or even Chris Hemsworth (as Thor) and then it follows that his motorbike must be huge and the guns must be even more huge, along with the explosions and everything else: it messes badly with the sense of scale.
Crucially Dredd has something absent from all recent action and science fiction films: sadness. How desperately The Dark Knight craved sadness! How deeply The Bourne Legacy wanted to be as sad as the moment in The Bourne Identity when Clive Owen died in that wintry, crow-filled French field. The slow-mo moments in Dredd – imagined by the screenwriter Alex Garland and realised by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle – aspire to the bluesy melancholy of the sequence when Joanna Cassidy as the doomed replicant Zhora goes crashing through the glass in Blade Runner: a moment that set the tone for all our hopes for science fiction on screen.
Yep, that's pretty much it. I'd never really thought about the importance of sadness in science fiction before, but she makes a good point. It's one of the things that modern classic Moon – a big favourite around these parts – does so well. And it's good to see some recognition for Clive Owen's small but vital contribution to the Bourne saga.
I really hope Dredd does enough at the box office to warrant a Dredd 2. It makes a nice change to see a film that is both self-contained and deserving of a sequel – unlike recent films (The Hunger Games, Prometheus) that are so desperate for franchisery that they don't have proper endings, they just stop, leaving the plot just sitting there for a couple of years like so much stale popcorn.
Although it'd make sense to keep the perfectly-cast Karl Urban in the role (with this and Lord of the Rings, he really has the whole helmet-and-frowning market cornered), it'd be interesting to see different versions, just as different artists and writers re-interpret Dredd in the comics every week. I'd love to see Michael Biehn, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Duncan Jones take a shot at it.